Terrorism and the Good Life: a Virtue Ethical Approach to Moral and Political Questions of Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Noreen Josefa van Elk

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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"Terrorism is morally reprehensible." The majority of people would probably immediately agree with this statement. However, when looking deeper into moral questions of terrorism and counterterrorism, they appear not to be as easy to answer as is often assumed.
First of all, this is due to the so-called definitional problem of terrorism. There is no global consensus on the definition of terrorism. Since the moral evaluation of terrorism is highly dependent on how it is defined, the plurality of definitions of terrorism results in a plurality of moral evaluations. Secondly, within the field of the ethics of war and violence, there are several prevalent approaches (e.g. just war theory) that appear not to be the best suited for the moral evaluation of new forms of violence such as terrorism and violent counterterrorism. The majority of those approaches focuses on moral rules and the assessment of acts.
This research shows, that those approaches are generally limited when it comes to assessing complex moral problems and especially fail when they are used to morally asses terrorism and violent counterterrorism. It demonstrates that a virtue ethical approach is a real alternative to mainly rule-based and act-oriented ethical approaches and has many benefits regarding the moral evaluation of terrorism and counterterrorism. In a last step, it is also shown that an alternative ethical approach can have decisive implications on how politics deal with terrorism, and thus on the effectiveness of counterterrorism strategies.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Herman, Joost, Supervisor
  • Zwitter, A.J., Supervisor, External person
Award date4-Jul-2019
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-1672-4
Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-1671-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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